The 2012 UCLA football season is an anticipated one. We’re not sure if this is a good thing or a very, very bad thing, but we’re curious as hell.
And with the UCLA football season 43 days away, we figured we’d try and figure out where this squad is by previewing our opponents while determining where UCLA has some advantages.
We kicked off our preview with the Rice Owls. Let’s move on to our Week 2 match-up, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Nebraska fans are getting a little restless. Although the team has won nine games in each of the past four seasons since head honcho Bo Pelini took over and has ended the past three seasons as a top-25 team, Cornhusker nuts are getting worried now.
Weird, you think to yourself. If UCLA had four nine-win seasons in a row (with a couple of ten-win seasons thrown in), we’ll go bat-shit insane, at least sitting from where we’re at, after finishing under .500 since 1492, and probably some time before that.
Nebraska is a good time, though. Don’t act as if those nine- and ten-win seasons are filled with crappy losses, and let’s not pretend that this team isn’t as good as people make them out to be. They’re good. But they’re not great and, ultimately, that’s what Nebraska wants: To be great. That desire has caused Cornhusker fans to start believing that Bo Pelini’s seat may be getting hot, and soon.
That’s what we’re striving for, here at UCLA, and we hope to be where Nebraska is: Whining over nine-win seasons.
Nebraska Offense vs. UCLA Defense
The Nebraska offense has gotten a bit better and saw the unit make nice strides in 2011. Sure, the total yards on offense took a bit of a dip — not a dive at all from 398 yards per game in 2010 to 380 yards per game in 2011 — but QB Taylor Martinez, in his second year as a starter for Nebraska, became far more well-rounded and matured a great deal. In 2010, the dude was a threat to run and in 2011, he became a dual-threat QB that had his fair share of solid performances under center. Nebraska fans are optimistic as hell about the dude, and people are sure that Martinez can establish himself as an elite QB in 2012.
The running game? That’s been good for awhile, in Nebraska. They were 15th in the nation in rushing yards per game and ran for significantly less yards than they did in 2010 with 3500 yards on the ground two seasons ago. This year, they head into the season with could be one of the best running backs in the nation in Rex Burkhead (one of the most masculine names in college football, for damn sure). Dude ran for 1400 yards and banged in 15 touchdowns last season and he’ll be in contention for the label of best RB in the B1G.
UCLA will have problems here. The front seven in Westwood should hold up and stay competitive, since that’s UCLA’s strength, and even more so now that UCLA has all the personnel to effectively run a 3-4 defense. That’ll be necessary against a vaunted running attack that a school like Nebraska boasts. Sure, we won’t shut these guys down, especially since Nebraska’s offense will be versatile and the QB play should improve on their end. But we should be competitive here, at the very least.
The passing game is what UCLA should be worried about; as Jim Mora stated during Spring Practice, the secondary is awfully thin. Taylor Martinez will progress, we’re sure, and he could cause us trouble if he attacks us with his arm rather than his legs.
Nebraska Defense vs. UCLA Offense
If you wanted to know why the hell Bo Pelini is on the hot-seat, this — this Nebraska defense, one of the better defenses in the nation a few years ago — is why.
Because Cornhusker fans are worried that a defensive season like the one they had in 2011 — where they allowed nearly 50 more yards per game than the year prior, while also allowing 1.2 more touchdowns per game and ranking 50th in the nation in points allowed — is a sign of mediocrity on the horizon. Their worry is valid, too, because numbers don’t lie. Their defense against mobile QBs has been atrocious and teams have figured out how to tear the defense apart in that regard, even if the issue is long-withstanding among Cornhusker fans.
Of course, UCLA has some weapons to further worry Nebraska nuts. Should Brett Hundley rip the starting QB spot from senior Richard Brehaut, you’d have to imagine just how much Nebraska can take. Hundley, in case you didn’t know, is a hell of a dual-threat QB and is big, fast and quick enough to pick apart Nebraska with his legs. Coupled with Hundley’s arm — which has been much-improved this spring, but probably not as good as Brehaut’s arm — the Nebraska defensive squad is in for a long-ass day.
If Brehaut’s the QB, though? UCLA is done. Nebraska has made quick work of pocket QBs, and we’re sure they’ll do the same in this situation despite our somewhat-improved offensive line.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, UCLA 20.
We hope this UCLA team stays competitive against what should be a top-25 team (whether Cornhusker fans like it or not). A score of 31-20 may not look all that competitive, but Nebraska’s a good team and UCLA will have to put a lot together, two weeks into the season, to beat this team.
It’s possible, though. If the UCLA secondary isn’t as bad as we think it’ll be, and if the Nebraska defense continues its regression? UCLA could squeeze one out against a very good squad.
We’ll see, though. Fingers crossed.